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The Samuel Craddock series is a smart take on the small town mystery series. Terry Shames' books featuring the widower chief of police brought out of retirement to serve his town of Jarret Creek brought more depth and complexity that is associated to the subgenre. Terry serves up a compelling set up in her latest, Guilt Strikes At Granger's Store with Samuel handling two homicides that are discovered at the same crime scene but occurred decades apart.

Mark Granger stirs up controversy in town when he takes over his stroke stricken father Melvin's feed store and makes plans to put a gift shop in it.Someone assaults Mark to the point of hospitalization. That evening the store is set on fire. A boys is discovered by the firefighters in the back and later on a victim over thirty years old is discovered under the floorboards. Samuel to start his investigation with neither bodies identified taking him into the darker past of the Granger's and some of the other townsfolk..

Shames follows her tried and true structure. She begins with some humor, usually with catching up with where Samuel is at, then sets up a seemingly "quaint" murder mystery. As Samuel looks into it, it grows darker and more complex than what you might expect. While not as bleak as some of the books, like the heartbreaking masterpiece The Last Death Of Jack Harbin, we delve into the influence of money, pride, and family jealousy.

As always, Craddock remains the moral center of the story. He can be stubborn and suffer bouts of pride, but that pride is connected to a sense of duty. His understanding of Jarrett Creek, its people, and human nature beat anything in a CSI lab.

Guilt Strikes Granger's Store earns its place as a worthy addition to the Samuel Craddock series. The mystery is well constructed and it's reveals prove to be say something about us than the simple solving of a puzzle.

-reviewed by Scott Montgomery


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